After returning from my trip to Italy, painting en plein air in watercolor and oil, I started pining for my trusty pastels. I decided to revisit my Orchard series with a large studio work.
I’ve photographed hundreds of autumn apple trees over the last few years and have a huge library of reference for this series. I comb through the photos and search for one that strikes me with a pleasing composition, good shapes, and most of all, sunlight. The final painting rarely looks exactly like the photo because I take the liberty to add and remove elements as I see fit, always working to create an artwork that makes the viewer “feel” that special moment in time, ripe with nature’s bounty.
I’m currently working on another in this series and will post the work in progression soon, so that you can see the various stages, right through completion. You can see some of my other Orchard paintings here.
Italy is filled with ancient ruins. In every large city and small town, almost everywhere you turn, there are historical reminders of centuries of generations who have lived in this beautiful country. It is beyond overwhelming — and brings home the truth that each of us are a very small cog in the timeline of this planet.
One day our magical bus dropped us off at Carsulae, one of the most important archaeological sites in Italy. The town is thought to have been founded in about 300BC. We wandered through the crumbling buildings and old arches in total awe. I finally set up my easel and tried to capture some of the remnants of history before me. I started on a rust-toned linen panel and used the technique that Nora had taught us– first laying in the whole scene in an underpainting of burnt siena and ultramarine blue. I then layered in the local colors, made vibrant by the intense sunlight.
One day during our Italian Workshop with Nora Venturelli, we visited the ancient hill town of Stroncone in Umbria. The earliest records of this city’s existence begin about 1000 AD. It had been destroyed and rebuilt many times during the middle ages and still feels like it’s trapped in that long-ago time period. I wandered the narrow, curving streets and came upon this old well. Every Italian hill town has one. Its where the locals drew their water before modern plumbing, and is still sometimes the center of the community. This one was tucked away at the highest point of the town, and seemed to be somewhat abandoned. I sat in the shade and captured the time-worn stones and delicate vines while the sun was high.
If you missed your chance to travel with us to La Romita, we are thinking of holding the same wonderful workshop again next year. If you are interested in putting your name on an informational list, please let me know. We’ll keep you updated on the plans for 2015!
Before I left for Italy I attended an artist reception for the Ann Arbor Women Artists Summer Exhibit. The quality of the work was very good and, as often happens when I visit an art show, I came away inspired and eager to try new techniques. One of the award-winning pieces at the show was an oil portrait painted on Yupo. I’ve done a lot of watercolors on that plastic-type paper, but never considered painting on it with oil. My assumption was that the oil and solvents would eat into the surface. But, since I am working with water-soluble oils (and no solvents), I decided to give it a try. Yupo is perfectly smooth with no texture at all, so the paint glided on like silk. And though I loaded up my brush with paint, the paper didn’t buckle or crack. I have no idea if oil on Yupo is archival, but I had a great time playing with it and will probably work with it again soon.
This is a portrait of my daughter, who we often called “Roosk” when she was growing up. I think the nickname came from a secret language that she and her girlfriend made up one summer. But, for whatever reason, the name has endured through the years, as has our adoration of her…
So many beautiful little hill towns, so little time!
One day, our painting workshop group was dropped off at lovely little Spoleto. We visited a few sites in the Italian town and then found our way up to a small cafe near the castle that overlooked a wooded valley. Many of the artists chose to paint that dramatic view. I however, being a contrarian, chose a very different scene to capture in oil. The sunlight was electrifying the umbrellas at the cafe and creating warm undershadows and silhouettes. That kind of view, full of light, shadow and color, always flips my switch. Plus, I loved the long, lazy expanse of road leading up to the cafe summit. I stood in the full sun (not too smart) and spent a very warm morning painting a charming site. Couldn’t get much better than that.